Last week I attended the Oregon/Idaho annual conference in Boise, Idaho. I met Sophia Agtarap who is the daughter of Fred Agtarap who served as interim pastor of our Homer UMC this past year. Sophia works for United Methodist Communications in a new position that resources churches interested in developing online faith communities.
Some interesting questions arise over how we do church in a virtual internet arena. How do we "count" people? We United Methodists are obsessed with counting things! How are the sacraments celebrated? Are ordained elders needed to consecrate virtual bread and juice? What is the nature of Christian community with people who may never meet in person?
I don't know the answers. But I do know that our churches need to be thinking about ways to engage others via the internet. So here's what I am going to do. I plan to lead a book study of an amazing book I am reading now: "Speaking Christian," by Marcus Borg. I am aware that many young people are turned off by organized religion and they will not come to our church buildings even if the programs we offer peaks their interest. So I will plan this study and advertise on Facebook. I'll ask young people I know to share it with their Facebook friends. I suspect there may be people from various parts of the country and perhaps the world.
I have this thought that if we Christians are willing to engage young people and their honest questions about God, that real spiritual growth will happen, and perhaps even Christian community. So I encourage us all to think of ways we can use social media to create new places for new people for Christ.